Carpe Diem

IJ prevails in major Massachusetts civil forfeiture case

Great news from the Institute for Justice regarding its major legal victory yesterday in a very important civil forfeiture case that would never have been litigated except for America’s shameful War on Drugs, featured previously here on CD:

Arlington, Va.—In a major triumph for property rights, a federal court in Massachusetts dismissed a civil forfeiture action against the Motel Caswell, a family-run motel in Tewksbury, handing a complete victory to owners Russell and Patricia Caswell. In one of the most contentious civil forfeiture fights in the nation, Magistrate Judge Judith G. Dein of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts concluded, based on a week-long bench trial in November 2012, that the motel was not subject to forfeiture under federal law and that its owners were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing.

“This is a complete victory for the Caswell family and for the protection of private property rights,” said Scott Bullock, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice. “The Caswells will keep their motel, and private property rights are preserved.”

The government had sought to take the Motel Caswell from the Caswell family under the theory that the motel allegedly facilitated drug crimes. But the court found that Mr. Caswell “did not know the guests involved in the drug crimes, did not know of their anticipated criminal behavior at the time they registered as guests, and did not know of the drug crimes while they were occurring.”

Here’s a report from the Boston newspaper.

HT: Bill Greenway

Kudos to the Institute for Justice for protecting the property rights of the Caswell family, and standing up to the despicable government overreach and abuse of power in a civil forfeiture action against innocent property owners.

9 thoughts on “IJ prevails in major Massachusetts civil forfeiture case

  1. As I recall the fact of the case it was just the wrong law being used. The facts seemed to establish that the motel was a public nuisance which the law has means to handle, Starting the notifying the owners that they are running one. The person is given some time to correct the issue, and if not fines start being incurred. The question would then be how many arrests for drug crimes happened in the motel. If many did I believe the law says you have been notified of the events by the arrests.

    • According to what I’ve read the Motel Caswell had no more drug arrest on their property than any of the other local motels. The difference was the Caswell family had no mortgage while the others did.

  2. kudos indeed.

    that was a truly outlandish perversion of law and a wild overreach.

    attempts to hold a hotel owner responsible for everyhting that happens in the rooms is simply an impossible standard.

    guests are entitled to privacy. you cannot spy on them or put cameras in the rooms. that would be illegal.

    how could one then rationally expect a hotelier to prevent misbehavior.

    renting to a known drug dealer or prostitute is one thing, but just assuming that someone is would have the ACLU and who knows who else all over you for profiling.

    we need to seek to avoid creating such catch 22′s in law.

  3. Carpe Diem generated far more comments before it moved to AEI. Has readership dropped, does AEI censor posts, or is something else at work?

  4. Great news! Thanks for posting on this specific civil asset forfeiture case and other similar cases so many times over the years. And thanks for sharing the conclusion.

    -JD Cross

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